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Why shouldn’t the Oscars take films’ messages into account?

HOLLYWOOD (BP)–From a spiritual perspective, it was a dismal year at the movies.
This year’s Oscar nominees for Best Picture, announced Feb. 10 — “Titanic,” tieing with 1950’s “All About Eve” with 14 nominations, “L.A. Confidential,” “As Good As It Gets,” “The Full Monty” and “Good Will Hunting” — prompt me to say:
I’m not suggesting every film should end with a verse of “Climb Every Mountain,” but when it comes to honoring movies as an art form, we should consider their message, not just their technical and dramatic merit. After all, what is the purpose of art if it doesn’t uplift the spirit of man?
The majority of pictures coming from Tinseltown, even when they have merit, assault the viewer with negative images, messages and material the Bible is clear about us avoiding. Before supporting the media’s product, we should take into account the teachings of the Word – – Philippians 4:8, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, Psalm 101, Ephesians 5:11 — not just to guard our own mental outlook, but to show others what we stand for.
The Hollywood of today has forgotten that a tale — even concerning vice, for example — can be told without brutalizing the audience. Example: “Detective Story” with Kirk Douglas. This video alternative looks at vice cops with nary a profanity in the entire script.
With the onslaught of computer-generated effects and ear-piercing digital sounds, adventure flicks dominated theater screens much of the past year. Abandoning story and character development, moviemakers pulverized rather than entertained. The roller coaster rides of the year’s supersonic action films amused, but often left the viewer empty moments after the end credits. Not to mention, momentarily deaf.
Then came “L.A. Confidential,” in my opinion, the best film of the year from an artistic perspective. Not only did we get an involving narrative, but three-dimensional people, an element nearly forgotten in this era of computer-generated effects. Unfortunately, L.A. contains R- rated material, making it impossible for me to recommend.
After that film’s release we were bombarded by “message” pictures that left us distraught and cynical, “The Ice Storm” and “A Thousand Acres” as two examples.
Unfortunately, these sorts of content are becoming the norm in the movies.
While this year’s Best Picture nominees have been hailed for outstanding technical and artistic achievements in one or more categories, consider their message to humanity before doling out your contribution to Hollywood’s escapism.
TITANIC. Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet. PG-13 (nearly 20 profanities with the same amount of obscenities; 1 sexual situation; nudity, including sketches of models; an obscene gesture from a woman; intense action scenes depicting the fate of the ship’s passengers; a couple of killings and 1 suicide; frozen bodies bobbing in the ice cold ocean). Emphasis on special effects overshadows emotions in this bloated 3 hour, 15 minute retelling of the doomed luxury liner, with cynical significance on the cowardice of many passengers, rather than the self-sacrifice and bravery seen in previous versions. Vid. Alt. No other film dealing with this subject can compete on the technical scale of this rendition, but for a more soulful look, try “Titanic” with Clifton Webb and Barbara Stanwyck or “Titanic: Death of a Dream,” the 1995 documentary which includes interviews with survivors and diary excerpts.
L.A. CONFIDENTIAL. Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kim Basinger and Danny DeVito head an exceptional ensemble cast. R (profanity & obscenity throughout; brief nudity; nude cadaver; a gruesome discovery of a decaying body; one sexual situation; police examine lurid photos; extreme violence, including several killings, intense gun battles and brutal beatings of suspects by police; bigotry towards Latinos and blacks is enacted by several characters). This film is very frustrating for me. I cannot recommend it due to the above content, but as a reporter I cannot condemn it outright. For although it is a brutal film, L.A. Confidential is — artistically — the best film of the past year. The story centers around three L.A. police detectives involved in a murder investigation that leads them into a dangerously tightening spiral of murder, corruption and intrigue. The most engaging film since “Usual Suspects,” with smart dialogue, three-dimensional characters, a complexly structured script, a pulsating score by veteran Jerry Goldsmith and a gritty film noir-ish atmosphere, L.A. Confidential brings to mind “Chinatown,” “Farewell My Lovely,” “D.O.A.,” “The Big Sleep” and other greats from this genre. It is far more than a cops-on-the-take movie. It is really a parable about justice and redemption. Alas, I am troubled that the only serious filmmaking from this decade contains overwhelming amounts of profane and desensitizing material. Or is that what it takes to entertain today’s society? Vid. Alt. “Detective Story” with Kirk Douglas.
AS GOOD AS IT GETS. Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, Greg Kinnear. Tristar. Com/dra. PG-13 (profanity, obscenity & crudity sprinkled throughout an otherwise literate script; 1 sexual situation; racist & bigoted remarks from the dysfunctional lead character; a homosexual lifestyle is represented, but no sexual situations between men; a man is beaten and left scared by hoodlums). An obsessive compulsive brute finally reaches out and finds love and friendship in this touching comedy/drama.
THE FULL MONTY. Robert Carlyle. Fox Searchlight. English comedy. R (profane, obscene and crude language throughout; brief backside nudity; a homosexual relationship is suggested; smoking and drinking by all the leads; thievery). Six out-of-work cockney blue-collar blokes decide to become male strippers to earn money. The humor generates from the fact they are less than Chippendales dancers either in appearance or ability. The film has some funny moments, and several positive messages concerning compassion, friendship, desire to do the right thing, but these are some pretty coarse chaps. Not all blue-collar workers are uncouth, but you’d never know that by the way they are portrayed in the movies. Vid. Alt. “The Lavender Hill Mob.” Alec Guinness heads an English cast in this 4-star heist comedy. Won an Oscar for best screenplay.
GOOD WILL HUNTING. Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Minnie Driver, Robin Williams. Miramax. Drama. R (around 50 profanities & obscenities; 1 sexual situation, plus crude sexual humor and conversations; discussions of childhood abuse; one fistfight; cynical diatribe about working for the government). A psychiatrist tries to discover the reason for antisocial behavior in a young mathematical genius. Strong performances and insightful storyline highlight this positive, often feel good movie. However, the roughneck dialogue is very abusive at times. Vid. Alt. Spencer Tracy made a living playing father figures who helped younger men find their way in “Boys Town,” “Captains Courageous,” “Devil at 4 O’clock,” “A Guy Named Joe.”
The Oscars air Monday, March 23, beginning at 9 p.m. Eastern on ABC.
Of the films this past year that enriched, entertained and encouraged, the two that top my list are: For adults, THE APOSTLE with its empathetic portrait of people of faith. Robert Duvall is nominated for Best Actor honors. For the family, SHILOH, about a boy who saves an abused beagle. Contains more substance than most boy-and-his-dog movies. Lessons are taught concerning the value of your word and facing your problems. And that dog — he could give Snoopy charm lessons! PG (1 mild expletive, but I caught no profanity; the one animal fight is staged with the cooperation of the American Humane Association; the villain kicks his dogs and mistreats them which may upset little ones).
Other films of note were John Grisham’s “The Rainmaker,” “Mrs. Brown,” “Shall We Dance” and “Amistad.”

    About the Author

  • Phil Boatwright